About 50 million U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain, one of the most common reasons for seeking medical care. Nonetheless, many suffer in silence and hesitate in getting proper care.
Your primary care physician serves as a good starting point to determine the source of the pain, which can be caused by a range of factors, including arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, past injuries, and other reasons. Chronic pain can limit quality of life.
Managing chronic pain can be challenging, but there are many options, emphasize Baptist Health experts who were part of this week’s Resource LIVE: Suffering in Silence: Living With Chronic Pain .
“Feeling pain or discomfort all the time is no way to live, but that’s the reality for so many Americans,” said Jonathan Fialkow, M.D.,  chief population health officer for Baptist Health and chief of cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute . “Finding ways to manage and control chronic pain conditions can be life-changing.”
Dr. Fialkow hosted the Resource LIVE. On the panel: Seif Elbualy, M.D. , director of Pain Management at Marcus Neuroscience Institute , part of Baptist Health; Francisco Garcia, PA-C, physician assistant at the Arthritis Clinic  at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care;  and Lijo Jose, M.D.,  family medicine physician, Baptist Health Primary Care .
Here are question-and-answer excerpts from the Resource LIVE. You can see the full program here .
Dr. Fialkow: At what point does something someone may feel become chronic pain?
Dr. Seif Elbualy: “Essentially, pain that lasts for greater than three months or greater than six months. It’s not necessarily acute pain. It’s not twisting your wrist, for example. But it’s ongoing and it can be progressive and debilitating. It depends on the individual. Oftentimes, they have chronic pain that is low to moderate pain. Sometimes, the pain spikes or there are flare-ups with certain activities.”
“Most of our patient population here is elderly. We have a lot of back pain related to arthritic conditions. Certainly, spinal stenosis is a big player in this population. We also have younger people with more acute disc herniations and such causing spine related pain. They all get some sort of imaging and physical exam to determine if their pain complaint matches their physical exam. And does it match their imaging results to figure out what’s the best sort of treatment plan for them?”
Dr. Fialkow: “What are the signs or symptoms of someone with pain that might signal someone to get looked at? And can chronic pain be a sign of other medical problems?
Dr. Lijo Jose:
“Chronic pain can be seen in many different ways. Either we know where it originated or the cause. It can be arthritis, cancer, or something else — this pain that comes and is just not going away after three months. But other things can also leave us prone to having chronic pain. Sometimes it’s an old injury — and essentially our body has changed in terms of how we perceive pain. And we’re still feeling it after a little while. So, it’s our job as primary care physicians to identify, if we can, the root cause so that we can help manage the pain …
“It could be aching, it could be burning, it could be from the nerves. Whenever you come to your primary care, we really want to just assess where it is, how it’s affecting you, how it’s changed — and what things are helping and what things are making it worse.”
Dr. Fialkow: “Where do you see more of a pattern to the orthopedic causes of chronic pain?
Francisco Garcia, PA-C:
“One of the most common chronic conditions that I see here in the clinic is hip and knee arthritis. We have about 53 million of Americans today living with arthritis in their joints. That means one out of four Americans complain of one or multiple joint pain, which can be acute or they can be chronic. The majority of them are chronic … Arthritis doesn’t really discriminate against age group or social economics or the type of activities or their BMI (body mass index). There’s definitely a lot of influence on overweight patients and patients who participate in high-impact activities, such as long-distance runners. So, definitely these factors take their toll on their joints.
“In the clinic, we focus on the nonsurgical treatment for knee-hip arthritis. In the U.S., we do approximately 1 million hip-knee replacements per year. We focus here on non-surgical management for patients who have arthritis. The majority of them can be treated with evidence-based treatments that are shown to help reduce the pain, the inflammation, and restore function back to the patient.”